Blue Reflection: Second Light is, without a doubt, one of the best games of 2021, so far as we’re concerned. Appearing on the Games of 2021 lists for both me and Trent, it’s an astonishingly good RPG with a deeply emotional narrative core — and a massive improvement over its already excellent predecessor.
We’ve already talked in non-spoilery terms for those who are yet to jump on board with the game — so I think it’s high time we did a bit more in-depth analysis of the game as a whole, because as a narrative-centric game, a lot of the things worth praising and celebrating about this game come from… well, they come from the story, don’t they?
So today what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a look at each of the characters involved in the story and how they fit into the whole thing. We won’t be touching too much on the game’s overall “meta-plot” — but regardless, if you’re yet to beat the game, be aware that there will be spoilers ahead.
Our protagonist Ao is, as you might expect, our first contact with the world of Blue Reflection: Second Light. We’re introduced to her as a teenage girl who is somewhat frustrated at how “ordinary” she feels. She doesn’t believe there’s anything about herself that stands out — and, we discover later in the game, this has led to her feeling something of a sense of apathy towards life, manifesting itself through apparent laziness and a desire not to do anything.
In many ways, Ao’s situation can be both compared and contrasted to that of Hinako in the first game; while Hinako was sent into a spiral of depression and frustration as a result of the one thing that made her “special” being taken away from her, Ao feels like she never had that “special” thing in the first place, and is similarly frustrated as a result.
That said, despite her protestations about how “normal” she is over the course of the narrative as a whole, it’s clear that she recognises right from the outset that the situation she is in is anything but ordinary. Consequently, we don’t learn about her apathy and apparent depression until very late in the narrative; the Ao we meet at the start of the game — or at least the one who presents herself once she appears in the land of Oasis — is happy, cheerful, enthusiastic and keen to uncover the truth behind their situation.
Part of Ao’s frustration likely stems from the fact that she seemingly accepts and is comfortable with herself, yet up until this point it seems like she has had a certain amount of difficulty getting close to others. We never hear anything about her friends from back in the “real world”, for example, and she admits that she believes she has never felt true love. It’s understandable how this might be frustrating — when you’re happy with the person you are, however “ordinary” you might be, you want others to accept you too. And it comes across that, up until meeting Kokoro, Rena and Yuki on her initial arrival in Oasis, she has never really felt that.
How can we tell that Ao is comfortable with herself? Primarily the fact that she’s surprisingly open and frank about her feelings with others. She never explicitly talks about being attracted to women, but she demonstrates it repeatedly over the course of the narrative. She’s flirtatious with others — and not just in a cheeky “teehee” sort of way; her admissions and light-hearted quasi-“confessions” to the others come across as perfectly genuine — and you can practically see her eyes light up any time someone responds to her prodding in a way that makes it clear they’re really “letting her in”.
Plus it’s pretty telling that reaching a milestone in a relationship with one of the other characters results in her holding hands with them any time they’re together.
One of the most interesting relationships involving Ao is the one between her and Uta — so much so that it’s hard not to come away from Blue Reflection: Second Light feeling like that they are a couple that is really “supposed” to get together by the end of everything. But we’ll talk more about that when we come to Uta herself.
Suffice to say for now, Ao is an excellent protagonist for the game. As players, we can easily step into her role as someone who doesn’t know anything about the situation that is going on — and her willingness to get along with everyone allows us a certain degree of freedom in which relationships we’re particularly interested in pursuing, and in what way we should pursue them.
Then, of course, there’s the thing that really makes her “special” despite what she has been assuming about herself — but we’ll leave that for you to discover in the game’s finale. And if you really want to get to the bottom of things, you’ll need to zip through the game for a second time, bearing in mind everything you and Ao learned…
Kokoro is the first character we meet aside from Ao, and she immediately comes across as a kind, caring and gentle young woman. Despite having a certain degree of motherliness about her, she’s certainly not uptight about things, and indeed she’s one of the initial residents of Oasis who is more likely to go along with fun and silly schemes — though she doesn’t tend to go as far as Yuki does in this regard.
Kokoro is an attractive young woman who clearly makes an effort with her appearance. She wears the most makeup of the cast — though doesn’t cross a line into “gal” territory — and obviously wears clothes that flatter her curves, which are by far the most ample of the entire cast. She’s clearly not arrogant about her appearance, however; on the contrary, as we explore her Heartscape and come to discover the truth behind her background, it becomes clear that her desire to take care of her appearance is more than likely born from a certain degree of insecurity.
Kokoro had a bit of a challenging childhood, you see; she was a fairly timid girl and this meant that she was often the target of bullying — and said bullying only escalated when she was unwilling to stand up for herself. For a long time, she was frustrated about feeling like she was suffering alone and in silence — but upon meeting Shiho, she discovered someone that she could confide in and share her worries with.
She still wasn’t quite sure what to make of this, though — particularly when an especially nasty bullying incident caused Shiho to go so ham on the instigators that she ended up having to move schools. But by the time we meet her in Blue Reflection: Second Light, we see a Kokoro who is willing to reach out to others when she needs help — and who has an understanding that no-one needs to take on the challenges of life by themselves. People are stronger together — even if you’re not necessarily “taking action” directly. Sometimes just a feeling of closeness with others is enough to give you the strength to carry on.
Rena is an intriguing one from the moment we meet her. Like Kokoro, she has certain motherly tendencies, but rather than taking the gentle approach, she comes across as more of a disciplinarian; indeed, in our first few encounters with her she comes across as rather grumpy, even tsundere. But it doesn’t take long for it to become apparent that Rena, perhaps more than anyone, is aware of the gravity of the situation in which they find themselves. While the floating school of Oasis may seem like an idyllic heaven far away from the stresses of reality, everyone does still need to work together in order to survive — and, initially at least, Rena plays a leading role in this.
But the interesting thing about Rena is that right from the outset, it’s apparent that there’s something just a little bit… awkward about her, emphasised somewhat by the fact that her character design makes her noticeably taller and ganglier than the rest of the cast. Take her on a date and she shuffles along behind Ao looking a little uncomfortable — even when their relationship progresses to a point where they’ll hold hands with one another, she still looks ill at ease putting herself in what she presumably perceives to be a “vulnerable” position.
Most of this is, of course, down to her own internal struggles — specifically, the love that she has felt for Yuki for a long time, but which she never felt like was truly “resolved” in the real world. As we explore her Heartscape, it becomes apparent that Rena’s love for Yuki is both deep and genuine; far more than a simple teenage fantasy or a desire to experiment. In Yuki, Rena found someone who was willing to listen to her, even when she was unable to pin down what her overall sense of dissatisfaction at the world was. And, in exchange, she forged a connection with Yuki that was so strong she instinctively knew when the object of her affection wasn’t being entirely honest.
Rena’s frustration with life in general mirrors Ao’s to a certain degree; when we’re learning about the first meetings between Rena and Yuki, we see that Rena is feeling frustrated and depressed without a particularly clear cause to it all; she’s falling victim to the sort of mental health challenges that afflict a worryingly significant amount of the population in today’s world. She’s sad — not necessarily about anything, though; just sad. And with Yuki, she finds someone with whom she feels comfortable expressing that — and drawing comfort from. Even if Yuki herself has her own significant challenges to deal with.
The gradual softening of Rena over the course of the narrative is really heartwarming to see. A lot of this is doubtless down to the fact that something which she could have easily been made to feel uncomfortable about — her homosexuality — is accepted without question or even comment by her companions. The fact she is in love with Yuki is a surprise to everyone, yes — but not because it’s a relationship between two girls.
This feeling of acceptance makes Rena feel a lot more at ease with everyone, including Ao. After her revelations, she’s a lot less uptight, a lot more willing to talk about herself and a lot more willing to admit the things that she actually likes. It’s as if a veil of darkness has been lifted from her; she still has her grumpy moments, of course — old habits are hard to break — but it’s clear that being able to truly be herself lifts a great, great burden from her shoulders.
Yuki is an enigma for much of the game. She’s the only member of the initial cast who is unable to fight, and we see absolutely no sign whatsoever of her Heartscape (and the memories contained therein) until much later in the game. So who is she, and why is she present in Oasis?
We do eventually get some answers — and they’re surprising ones. In fact, out of all the cast, Yuki is probably the one who ties in most directly with the game’s sci-fi meta-plot about the end of the world as a result of the Ash and the World System. She’s the only one who actually died as a result of the catastrophe afflicting the outside world, for one thing — and, it’s revealed, she is one with a direct connection to the World System, meaning that she’s the reason Oasis occasionally comes under attack from the otherworldly creatures trying to “delete” the band of Reflectors.
Naturally, learning this causes her intense guilt and a desire to run away and hide from her new-found group of friends — but they’re having none of it. The reason for this is that by the time these revelations occur, Yuki has already proven herself to be an integral, important part of the group as a whole, a close friend to many people, someone whom Rena is very much still in love with, and someone whom Ao enjoys a fun, playful personal connection with.
Yuki is supposedly the same age as the other characters, but she acts (and looks) quite a bit younger. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that her Ash Syndrome robbed her of several of her defining teenage years, as well as equipping her with a certain amount of bitterness towards that lost time. Consequently, on her arrival at Oasis, she feels like she’s getting something of a “second chance” to enjoy her life — so she takes every available opportunity to do so.
She is the one who pushes forward on the school makeover project — which quickly proves to be the main means through which new Reflectors can be “summoned” to Oasis — and an active member of the team who prepares meals and takes care of chores for the group as a whole. Since she’s unable to fight, she figures that she’d best make herself useful in other ways — and while she might protest at times (all right, quite a bit) she always pulls through and does whatever necessary to make life pleasant and comfortable for everyone else in Oasis.
What all this adds up to by the time the revelation of her true mature rolls around is that everyone in the group has accepted her completely unconditionally. It doesn’t matter that she’s a spy for the World System — that wasn’t her choice. It doesn’t matter that she’s technically dead — she’s here right now. It doesn’t matter that she sometimes lies and cheats — she does so with good intentions, usually in an attempt to prevent someone from getting hurt. And it doesn’t matter that she never really gave Rena an answer back in the real world — it’s hard to respond to a confession when you’re dead.
And besides, the pair very much make up for lost time, particularly as the end of the game approaches. Yuki’s story is definitely one of the most tragic in Blue Reflection: Second Light — but it’s also heartwarming, as in a lot of ways she’s one of the most powerful expressions of how people can accept one another, despite the choices they might have made or the things that might have happened in their past.
Given that our first encounter with Shiho is as a faceless memory in Kokoro’s Heartscape, and that one of the main things we learn about her is that she caused a physical altercation on Kokoro’s behalf so severe that she had to change schools, you’d be forgiven for assuming that our girl would be a bit of a delinquent; a tough girl, used to the mean streets and well up for a fight.
So when she does arrive and reveal herself to be an immaculately turned-out, softly spoken, gentle young woman who enjoys things being neat, tidy and organised, it’s a pleasant surprise, and an enjoyable subversion of our expectations. It’s a sign that we shouldn’t make assumptions about people based on hearsay, a demonstration that people can very much change from their past selves — and that it is indeed possible to push even the “nicest” people so far that they want to lash out in order to protect the ones they love.
There’s also a slightly bittersweet element to it all, though. One would expect a reunion between Kokoro and Shiho after all these years — and after that experience they shared together, which was clearly a meaningful, impactful one on Kokoro — to be an emotional one, perhaps even culminating in the rekindling of a close personal relationship. But it never quite happens; Kokoro and Shiho seem distinctly awkward around one another, and while there are occasions when they do appear to be making tentative steps towards finding out more about one another, there’s definite, obvious hesitance on both of their parts.
One can perhaps attribute this to the fact that neither of them are the same person they once were. Kokoro is no longer the shy, timid girl who needs constant protection — she has learned that there are times when she needs to stand up for herself, and times when it is okay to explicitly ask for help. Shiho, meanwhile, has left the rough and tumble of her childhood behind and become a thoroughly refined, beautiful young woman who is a credit to her family.
Both Kokoro and Shiho desired to change, it seems — but there’s also a certain amount of guilt on both their parts. Kokoro feels guilt that it was her “weakness” which caused Shiho to lash out and ultimately have to uproot her life completely, while Shiho feels guilt over not only the shame she brought on her family by being kicked out of school, but also that she had to leave Kokoro behind, ultimately resulting in the pair of them drifting apart from one another and never quite being able to truly recapture the magic of their childhood friendship.
On the one hand, it’s a bit of a sad story — but on the other, it’s a sign that it’s eminently possible to move on from events that might have seemed of earth-shattering importance at the time they were current. Neither Kokoro nor Shiho appear to be particularly unhappy with the people that they have become, and it’s not as if they don’t like one another at all. One can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out between them if their childhood had unfolded a little differently, however.
Making the protagonist of your first game a secondary character in the sequel is a bold move, but they pulled it off with Blue Reflection: Second Light. Hinako’s presence in the game was probably the worst-kept secret of the run-up to the game’s launch, but she’s nonetheless a welcome presence in the cast — and, rather pleasingly, the narrative that she explores is far from a simple rehash of what she went through in the original.
As a recap, Hinako was once a talented and well-renowned ballet dancer, but a knee injury meant that she’d never be able to dance again; it’s shortly after this occurs that we join the action in the original Blue Reflection. As you might expect, having had the one thing that made her “special” taken away from her sent her into a deep, dark depression — but it was through her gradually opening up to her friends at school as well as her fellow Reflectors Yuzu and Lime that she learned to cope. She learned that she could still be “special” even with the loss of her previous talent — and that there are plenty of people who are “special” even without something as remarkable as being a ballet star.
The original Blue Reflection concludes with Hinako, Yuzu and Lime fighting off one of the god-like Sephira who believed that the right thing to do for the good of creation would be to merge all of humanity into a single being. Obviously feeling that was rather inappropriate, Hinako, Yuzu and Lime beat the shit out of the Sephira in question — but this left a power vacuum, particularly since Hinako, Yuzu and Lime had also beaten the shit out of all the other Sephira who were in contention for the position of “overseeing” the world.
It seems that when there’s no-one to oversee the world, the world has a habit of falling to bits in order to “reset” itself — and that’s where the apocalyptic situation that led to the creation of Oasis really came from.
Understandably, Hinako blames herself intensely for essentially triggering the apocalypse and the death of everyone on the planet, but she really didn’t have an option; the alternative was for everyone to be absorbed by the Sephira and for existence as we know it to be wiped out completely. And over the course of her story, she has to learn to accept that — at least with the actions she took, she and the other Reflectors were able to survive, which provides some faint hope that the world might be rebuilt at some point in the future, once they figure that out, of course.
As you might expect, Hinako’s guilt over the whole situation has given her a bit of a knock to her confidence, to say the least, and while she hasn’t quite regressed to the level she was at during the original Blue Reflection’s opening hours, she is still a little uneasy about letting others into her heart. Not only that, she’s also painfully aware that she is one of the most obviously uncool people in existence, which makes her a delightful and frequently hilarious contrast with Ao.
Once again, though, Hinako’s story is one of acceptance — both of others accepting her, and of self-acceptance. As she gradually comes to terms with the fact that no-one blames her for what she did — in fact, they’re grateful that her actions allowed them to survive — she comes to believe in herself again. And once she’s reunited with her former allies Yuzu and Lime — both of whom are immediately willing to share any remaining “blame” for the situation with Hinako, since they dragged her into the whole Reflector thing in the first place — she obviously perks up massively.
It’s worth learning from the past, Hinako’s story tells us, but we shouldn’t let it define us completely. There’s always tomorrow; there’s always an opportunity to make a difference. You just have to willingly step towards that opportunity while not letting previous events hold you back.
As you can probably tell, a running theme throughout Blue Reflection: Second Light is one of acceptance — however “peculiar” people might initially appear to be. And since we’re living in a world where magical girls are real and the world is falling to bits because one of them kicked the snot out of a god-like entity, “peculiar” is a bit of a relative concept anyway.
Nonetheless, Kirara initially comes across as a somewhat unconventional individual. Obviously designed to resemble the chuunibyou template somewhat — complete with the scruffy hair that falls over one eye — it gradually becomes apparent that the seemingly unbelievable things that she’s talking about are not, in fact, lies. She really did hear the voice of what she refers to as “The Divine” back in her existence in the real world — and in Oasis, she’s unable to hear that voice any longer, except on one particularly disturbing occasion.
Not that that stops her from invoking the name of The Divine when she wants to get up to a bit of mischief, mind. In many respects, Kirara has a lot in common with Yuki in that regard; she’s fond of playing pranks and being silly with her friends, but nonetheless she is aware of the seriousness of the situation.
In fact, in many ways we can look on Kirara’s willingness to lighten the mood — even with her rather deadpan way of speaking — as her taking the situation very seriously. In other words, she knows that the predicament all the girls have found themselves in could easily get on top of them and cause them to fall into despair. So what better time is there to make everyone laugh with a bit of light-hearted childishness?
Kirara’s also one of the characters from among the main cast who is seemingly perfectly willing to be pretty open about the fact she is attracted to women — especially Ao. In quite a few situations, she gives as good as she gets when Ao turns on the charm — and even forces Ao to admit defeat in a blushing mess on more than one occasion. Truly a formidable opponent — and despite the fact she is initially set up to be a mysterious, possibly even scary character, she ends up being one of the most approachable members of the main cast.
Books, covers and all that.
The astute will recognise Hiori as one of the main protagonists of the Blue Reflection Ray anime — though don’t fret if you didn’t watch that, or if you didn’t finish watching it, since the very nature of Blue Reflection: Second Light’s narrative means that she loses her memories as soon as arriving on the scene, and we (re)discover the important things about her over the course of her own particular episode of the narrative.
Regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with her beforehand, Blue Reflection: Second Light’s take on Hiori proves herself to be an absolute joy for much the same reason she is a delightful protagonist in Blue Reflection Ray: her energy and positivity is wonderfully infectious. And there’s a lot of good messages we can draw from her, too: most notably the fact that persisting in the face of adversity can often lead to great things.
Over the course of her story in Blue Reflection: Second Light, we learn a little more about her troubled past with her mother, and how both she and her sister Mio had to learn to depend on one another. We’re also reminded of the adversarial relationship between her and Uta — though the Uta in Blue Reflection: Second Light is very different from the one we saw in the anime. It’s to Hiori’s credit that she believes there is enough good in this “new” Uta to find an appropriate balance with her power-hungry alter-ego, rather than simply hating and mistrusting her outright.
Hiori also develops a close relationship with Ao very quickly. While it’s obvious that she’s very much attached to her sister Mio, over the course of Blue Reflection: Second Light’s narrative we see a Hiori who is keen to be a little more independent rather than constantly being considered as part of a “pair”. To that end, she actively pursues a relationship with Ao at times, and comes across as quite forward on occasion. In terms of who Ao is “supposed” to end up with — if anyone — Hiori is definitely one of the choices that feels most “right”.
Hiori’s sister Mio is, like Yuki and Kirara, one of the characters who doesn’t fight on the front lines, despite having a background as an active Reflector. The events of Blue Reflection Ray clearly left her somewhat exhausted, even if she doesn’t initially remember them — and she seems to want nothing more than to be able to settle down and care for her sister.
It’s quite clear that following their mother’s departure, Mio took on the role of “replacement mother”, allowing Hiori to continue to enjoy her childhood somewhat. There was obviously a difference between their personalities right from the beginning, but the roles into which they naturally fell further emphasised those differences. Rather than clashing, though, they complement one another perfectly; Hiori’s energy is counterbalanced nicely by Mio’s rationality — though occasionally Mio surprises you with a cheeky comment and what can only be described as one of the sexiest facial expressions from among the entire cast.
Despite her seeming maturity, though, Mio has a certain amount of insecurity about her — she worries about whether she is doing right by Hiori, and whether or not she is smothering her. Indeed, at one point in the narrative, they actually agree to spend a little less time with one another in an attempt to be more independent, and it doesn’t take long for it to become clear that Mio is the one who suffers more greatly from this arrangement. Perhaps it’s down to the fact that in Oasis she feels like she has less to offer to the group, since she can’t fight — or perhaps she’s just been overcompensating all this time.
Either way, Mio is a thoroughly likeable character, and an apt demonstration that even the people who might seem to have it the most together often have their own worries and concerns. Those concerns and worries shouldn’t be ignored just because they might seem less “serious” than other people’s angst, either — after all, even what might seem like simple struggles can escalate into bitterness and regret if not addressed. And Mio has plenty of first-hand experience of that.
Finally, we come to Uta, possibly one of the most interesting characters in Blue Reflection: Second Light — particularly when taking her antagonistic role in Blue Reflection Ray into account. When she first arrives on the scene, everyone is quite understandably afraid of her — especially given the stories that Hiori and Mio have told the group — but when the Uta before them appears to bear very little relation to the Uta of the Hirahara sisters’ stories in terms of personality, everyone is a lot more willing to give her the time of day.
Uta’s core struggle is what she perceives as a lack of emotion. Many of her memories revolve around visiting her grandmother — and the fact that she sees these mundane interactions as important moments in her life is pretty telling in and of itself. But the thing that drove her to the extremes she showed in Blue Reflection Ray was her realisation — or perhaps her convincing herself — that she likes pain and suffering, to such a degree that her desire for it can completely subjugate what appears to be her “real” personality. This is demonstrated by the fact that Uta’s Heartscape near-on collapses as soon as the group start to get close to the truth, meaning they can’t get to the bottom of things until much later.
This, of course, leads us to question which one is the “real” Uta, though. The Uta we spend time with in Oasis appears to have no desire to be inflicted with pain whatsoever. She appears to demonstrate no delusions of grandeur, nor any desire to do anything out of the ordinary. At first glance, it’s easy to take her at her word that she’s devoid of emotions — but spending time interacting with her makes it abundantly clear that this most certainly is not the case.
In particular, she develops an extremely close, intimate relationship with Ao, with the smouldering romance of a scene where they hold hands for the first time being some of the most potent in the entire game. Uta comes to trust Ao in particular, since Ao, by this point, has shown herself to be someone who is willing to get to know anyone and accept them, self-perceived “flaws” and all.
And this is important to Uta; she’s felt like she was “broken” from a young age, but never felt like anyone really took her seriously. Perhaps they assumed she was going through a phase, perhaps they assumed she was simply being uncooperative — regardless of the reason, no-one seemed interesting in actually addressing how Uta was struggling to express herself or even understand the things that she was doubtless feeling.
Because she most certainly was feeling things — but those feelings were remaining trapped deep inside her heart, unable to be expressed or communicated to others. And that’s what eventually caused her to overflow with emotion by the time Blue Reflection Ray rolled around; it can easily be looked upon as an extreme example of an individual going “Rampant”, as seen in the original Blue Reflection. In Blue Reflection: Second Light, meanwhile, she is able to keep things under control because this time around she does have people who understand and accept her — and who are willing to help her draw those emotions out of her heart, a little at a time.
The core cast of Blue Reflection: Second Light embodies, between them, a wide variety of different personality types. But one thing is clear: their strength comes from their unity. That unity might be hard-won in some cases, difficult to maintain in others — but ultimately they’re all in this together, and they all accept one another for who they are.
The truly touching thing about Blue Reflection: Second Light is that even as the overall meta-narrative makes it appear that they’re facing what appears to be an increasingly hopeless situation, they’re never deterred; they draw strength from one another, and they face the path ahead of them with the confidence and resolution of those who know that others have their back.
Will they be able to enjoy a happy ending once and for all, together forever? Well, that’s up to you, now, isn’t it?
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